House panel wants to reimpose death penalty for drug cases

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The House committee on justice recommended the reimposition of the death penalty for drug-related cases after investigating the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). 

The panel chaired by Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali approved on Tuesday, October 18, its committee report. It was approved during the plenary session the next day.

Based on the report, “sufficient evidence” presented during the 4 hearings indicate the “involvement and possible accountability” of then justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima in the proliferation of drugs inside the NBP. (READ: House report on Bilibid drugs: ‘All evidence point to De Lima’)

Lawmakers also found accountable De Lima’s alleged bagman and former aide Ronnie Dayan, as well as former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials Franklin Bucayu and Rafael Ragos. 

But the report did not recommend the filing of charges against any of them. (READ: House minority wants panel to recommend filing charges vs De Lima

Apart from these, the House justice committee proposed several legislative measures as a response to the findings of the investigation they conducted “in aid of legislation.” 

First on the list is the reimposition of the death penalty for drug cases. Bringing back capital punishment is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Lawmakers also recommended the “granting of exceptions” to the Anti-Wiretapping Law, Bank Secrecy Law, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act for drug-related cases.

To put a stop to the illegal activities inside the NBP – spanning illegal drug sale, the entry of contraband items, and the trafficking of women – the House justice panel wants the “rationalization” of the jail management system by placing BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology under a single department. 

Lawmakers proposed that the BuCor director and deputy directors should only have a tour of duty not exceeding 3 years from the date of their assignment.  

The committee report also sought an increase in the BuCor’s budget for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment and CCTV cameras “to help tighten the security and surveillance of the NBP and other penitentiaries.” 

A budget increase was also recommended for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which, according to the justice committe, should take the lead over all law enforcement and intelligence agencies involved in drug cases.  

'Stricter' rules in Bilibid

The justice committee’s report said that criminal syndicates and illegal activities had spread at the NBP even before De Lima became secretary of the Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015. 

The payola system perpetuated by BuCor officials in the early 2000s gave prison gangs special privileges that "caused the escalation" of prohibited activities over the years. (READ: Why anomalies happen in Bilibid

Legislators then recommended the implementation of stricter rules over contraband items inside the NBP and other jails. A regular lifestyle check of both inmates and officials of the BuCor, NBP, and other penal colonies was also recommended. (IN PHOTOS: Drug lords, murderers, and high living in Bilibid

The House panel likewise wants an immediate implementation of Republic Act Number 10575 or the BuCor Modernization Act.

The justice committee reiterated the need for state-of-the-art jamming devices inside the national penitentiary, as the prisoners make use of cellular phones for their drug transactions. 

Lawmakers also suggested conducting regular drug tests among inmates. Those who would test positive are recommended for “immediate isolation.”

Meanwhile, the DOJ was directed to strategize the immediate decongestion of the NBP. The national penitentiary holds some 22,000 inmates – more than 7 times its capacity of only 3,000.

The House justice committee suggested the creation of a new penal facility that segregates inmates to at most 50 per area “to ensure effective administration.”

A copy of the final version of the report is found below:

– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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